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Stereotypes in the Media Essay

Abstract The aim of this research is aimed to compare the frequency of stereotypes between different genres of prime time television shows. 36 Year 11 students were enrolled to record the number of stereotypes they saw portrayed in televised media. The results were collated to compare how many stereotypes appeared in the genres. Results indicated that News portrayed the most stereotypes, followed by comedy, then by drama. Results interpreted showed news stereotypes are considered more socially acceptable, whereas comedy stereotypes can be viewed as offensive and not suitable for children. Drama was very similar to comedy.

Stereotypes and their Pervasiveness in the Media The media these days is littered with stereotypes. These stereotypes portray a multitude of different categories, such as age, race, religion, sex and sexuality, mostly in a negative light. The aged, for example, have bad hearing; Muslims are all violent and suicidal; and the French have a snobbish attitude, love for frogs legs, and a hate for the English. While stereotypes tend to have a grain of truth within them (the French really do hate the English), they tend to overlook the differences between individuals, making them too generalised and unreliable.

Despite this inaccuracy, the media still does this often. While stereotypes are used in comedy “for the lulz,” they are deliberately used in this manner, unlike in certain news and current affairs shows, where it is used out of ignorance and efficiency. Because of the way media has stereotyped minorities, society has absorbed this into everyday use and many find it socially acceptable to use offensive stereotypes in everyday conversations. While comedy shows are not trying to offend and proliferate stereotypes, they in fact cause more harm than news and current affairs programs.

The Simpsons, a television show known well for its satirical voice and comedic social commentary, is scattered with stereotypes, many of immigrants. Apu, an Indian convenience store owner who appears often in the show, is stingy and has a recognisably Indian accent and prays to his Hindu god, Ganesh. This inaccurate portrayal of Indian immigrants is perceived to be humourous by the public, but they are likely to apply these stereotypes to real people if their misconceptions are not corrected.

This research aimed to compare the frequency of stereotypes between different genres of prime time television shows. The genres compared were comedy, drama and news. The hypothesis is that comedy will have the most stereotypes, followed by news, then by drama. Method Participants The participants in this investigation were 36 fifteen to sixteen year olds in year 11 of high school. The students were all academically selective and were mostly Caucasian. The participants chosen were all psychology students, taught by the same teacher.

Parents had given permission to participate in this research and signed a permission slip for students to watch at least 3 prime time television shows within two weeks, one to be news or current affairs, the other two being of their choice. Apparatus A log sheet was given (see appendix A) to record the amount of time watching television, and the number of stereotypes noticed. Televisions were to be provided by the participants. So were pens. Procedure The 36 participants were instructed to watch television between the hours of 5 and 10pm.

While watching television, they were to record the number of times they saw a stereotype being portrayed and comment on what was being portrayed. This took place over two weeks, after which the results were collated and analysed. Results The results are shown in chart form in Appendix B and C. Once the results were graphed there was not much of a difference between the genres. The data in the graph is collected from a number of participants’ log sheets. 30 people watched news, 21 watched comedy, and 19 watched dramas.

The graph didn’t show a single genre to contain significantly more stereotypes. [pic] The graph above shows that there seems to be less of a gap between different stereotypes in comedy, while news has more stereotypes of age and less of religion. Drama has less stereotypes than the others, even when the lack of viewers is factored in. Race and gender are the stereotypes most portrayed by television. Discussion The data partially supports the hypothesis. Despite drama being the genre of television with the least stereotypes, comedy came second to news.

News portrayed a lot more stereotypes of age. This is probably a result of violent attacks on old people in their homes. The least portrayed were sexuality, most likely a result of complaints of sexually explicit material being aired. The results do show a large amount of stereotypes are present in television shows. The stereotyping has a tendency to make things quicker and less time-consuming. After all, how is it possible to list all the political, social, economic, ideological and theological differences of a population of about 6 billion?

The accuracy of this investigation is to be questioned. While it is possible to rely on this data, it is not going to be completely accurate and it may not demonstrate the true amount of stereotyping done on television. If, for example, all the news shos watched were from the same network, this would affect the results. Other networks may be more biased or even more impartial. The lack of regulation of the programs and networks would have had some effect on the accuracy of the results. Also, the method of recording the stereotypes might also affect the results.

With a very vague system, it is impossible to be exact on what stereotypes are displayed, and whether they are a simple comment on turbans, or a full-fledged attack on the habits of old people. Very little research has been done into the number of stereotypes portrayed on television, as opposed to countless studies into the harmfulness of these stereotypes on impressionable children and even adults. The research shows that there are a lot of stereotypes on television, at least 5 or 6 per program.

This research is part of understanding how television networks design their shows, and how stereotypes are used as they are instrumental to making changes to unfair depiction of minorities in the media. If the stereotypes are deemed inappropriate then it would be unlikely to make things any better when it comes to international relations and even domestic relations. There has been a lot of rage aimed at the Australians who assaulted two Indian students in Sydney. The acts of violence against minorities have escalated recently. Further research may venture into stereotyping of specific minorities, to examine the details of stereotyping.

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